Nobody plans to get sick or need medical attention while traveling, but sometimes emergencies just happen. Would you know what to do if you needed to go to an emergency room while traveling abroad? Take a look at these seven things you should do before you go so that you’re prepared for a medical emergency.
See Your Doctor Before You Go
Getting a routine checkup before your trip is a great way to make sure you are healthy enough to travel. Your doctor can assess your health and clear you for any activities you wish to participate in while on your trip, such as hiking or scuba diving. Additionally, there may be vaccinations you need to get before entering certain countries.
It's best to schedule your doctor's appointment for six to eight weeks before your trip to make sure you have time to get any treatments you need before you go. Additionally, you should see you doctor when returning to the country if you show symptoms of illness within the first week or so of being home. Some countries carry serious diseases that need immediate medical care.
Check with Your Health Insurance
Another thing you should do before traveling abroad is see what type of medical coverage your insurance will provide. For instance, not all health insurance plans provide medical flights (medvac insurance) out of a country. There may also be restrictions on the types of medical facilities you can use. Knowing all of this information before your trip can save you thousands of dollars in medical bills, if you need to go to the hospital while you're gone.
If your health insurance does not provide adequate coverage while you're traveling abroad, you can purchase supplemental insurance for your trip. You can also check with your credit card company to see if you can be reimbursed for medical emergencies. No matter what health insurance you get, make sure to always carry your health insurance card with you.
Understand the Medical Care Available in Your Destination
Health care quality is not the same in every country. This is because each country has different education and experience requirements for their doctors and different regulations on treatments and procedures. Medical technology also varies from country to country. Therefore, you may be better off traveling home for medical care in some circumstances. So, do some research on the health care in your destination so you can make informed decisions. For instance, it's probably best to avoid blood transfusions in a third-world country unless it is a life-or-death situation.
Find the Closest Hospitals and Clinics to Where You'll Be Staying
When you're mapping out your travel route, make sure to also note all of the hospitals and clinics along your path. That will make it easier and faster to get medical attention if an emergency arises. Most people don't go to the hospital in an ambulance — they have someone drive them there. A GPS can help, but a standard map is fail-safe.
Additionally, you'll want to research how to call for emergency medical assistance when you're traveling abroad. Not all countries use 911. For instance, it is 112 in most of Europe. There is a list on www.sccfd.org that you can check before you leave on your trip.
Stock Up on Prescription Medications
It's hard to find a pharmacy when you're traveling abroad that will fill a prescription from a different country. This is because there is no way of verifying the legitimacy of your prescription. Therefore, you should plan to avoid the pharmacy when traveling abroad by bringing along all of the medication you will need. If you plan to be gone for an extended period of time, you can ask your doctor for a longer prescription to cover the entire time you'll be gone.
Print Out Copies of Your Medical History and Carry Them with You
Remember that the doctor you see while traveling abroad will not know anything about your medical history. Therefore, it's a good idea to get a medical emergency bracelet that lists all of your allergies and medications. This will help your doctor quickly create a treatment plan for you in the event of a medical emergency, especially if you are unconscious.
If you don't have a medical emergency bracelet, you should still carry around pertinent medical history information. For instance, it might be helpful for a foreign doctor to know that your appendix has already been removed to rule out this possible cause for emergency care. You should also write down all of your medications.
Register Your Trip with the American Embassy
The United States tries to take care of its citizens even when they are traveling abroad. However, it is easier for them to do this if you register your trip. The American Embassy helps you in an emergency by relaying messages to your loved ones at home. They can also help you choose the best doctors and facilities in your destination and transfer money to you from your account back at home. In the event of a natural disaster, they will also communicate your status back to your family at home. Of course, it helps if your family knows where you'll be and when you'll be there to help the embassy find you easier.
Traveling abroad is fun because you get to see new things and experience new cultures, but you need to be prepared to handle a medical emergency, even if you are in good health. People get sick and accidents happen, but the situation is a lot worse when you're in a foreign place without a plan. Do you have any other suggestions about how to prepare for medical emergencies when traveling abroad? Leave a comment below.
Jane Miller is a freelance writer who loves to write about anything from tech to mommy stuff. She is featured in many blogs as a guest writer, and can write with authority on any niche or subject.